Dáil Éireann - Volume 503 - 20 April, 1999
Written Answers. - Free Travel Companion Passes.
Mr. R. Bruton Mr. R. Bruton
419. Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will have arrangements made whereby a person who has a companion pass to travel with a person incapable of travelling on his or her own, would get cover for the return journey from, for example, a visit to the hospital, a day centre or some other location where the eligible person was receiving a necessary service. [9730/99]
Mr. D. Ahern Mr. D. Ahern
Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (Mr. D. Ahern): Free travel is available to all people living in the State aged 66 years or over, to all carers in receipt of carer's allowance and to carers of people in receipt of constant attendance or prescribed relatives allowance from later this month. It is also available to people with disabilities who are in receipt of certain welfare type payments.
Free travel companion passes have been available since 1990 to persons who qualify for free travel and who, on account of their disability, are unable to travel alone. The companion pass enables a person 16 years of age, or over, to accompany the pass holder free of charge.
A person aged 75 years or over, who is unfit to travel alone, also qualifies for a companion free travel pass.
It is considered that it would be difficult to monitor the proper usage of the companion pass if those travelling on these passes were able to travel independently of the qualifying person.
The free schemes generally were originally designed to benefit mainly older people in receipt of a social welfare type payment who were living alone and required additional assistance. However, over the years, additional categories of people have been included. A fundamental review of the free schemes, including the free travel scheme, has commenced to assess whether the objectives of these schemes are being achieved in the most effective and efficient manner. The Deputy's proposal will be examined further in this context.
The review is being undertaken by the policy institute in TCD in association with the Department and it is expected that it will be completed  and published by the institute in October-November 1999. The conclusions of the review will then be considered in a budgetary context, as appropriate.
Dáil Éireann 503 Written Answers. Free Travel Companion Passes.